Lucia Simek — local writer and artist — takes Wick Allison to task in Renegade Bus for his creation of the D Art Slam. Actually, it’s not so much that she objects to the recent showcase of local artists’ work (“welcomed and long overdue”). It’s the way the D magazine publisher packaged and pitched the whole affair. To wit, he wanted to round up all the worthy local artists supposedly ignored by gallery owners. Don’t pay attention to credentials like gallery representation, he declared.
Simek piggybacks on a recent post by Road Agent gallery owner Christina Rees over at Glasstire. Rees says that gallery owners go out of their way to find the best artists they can — and right now, galleries are hurting very badly. North Texas’ big spenders are not coming n the doors (not the way major out-of-town players still are). It’s a sad, angry, frustrated post (on attending the D Art auction: “It was demeaning, exhausting, and I’m afraid a real indicator of how so many of the wealthy want to spend their money in this recession. Strings of pearls and weekends in Cabo.”
So Simek sees Wick Allison’s proclamation that he’s found the “best” local artists to be one insult, followed by Allison’s aim to attract his well-off readership to his own shindig.
This is the core of Simek’s argument:
But then Mr. Allison says: “we decided to hold our first-ever D Art Slam to showcase the largely unknown work of the best Dallas artists.” After spending a few hours at Art Slam this weekend, and despite coming in contact with a few talented, and many committed artists, it is not a stretch to say that none of the best artists in Dallas were there.
However, that is not what is most troubling about Mr. Allison’s editorial. Rather, it is the impression the piece gives that the successes in local art are happening in spite of – not because of – the city’s galleries and the artists they represent. He suggests to his readers that they need not look to these places to see what’s really good. “The lesson is to not pay attention to credentials. Pay attention to the art,” he says, and then promises to show his audience just what they’ve been waiting for, offering a new credential – the D Magazine stamp. It is precisely because D Magazine’s foray into the local art scene has the potential to reach a new and moneyed audience that this attitude is counterproductive, if not divisive and dangerous.
Much as I’d hate to defend anything Allison or D-related, this sounds a little overstated. although the economy-fueled frustration is certainly understandable. D Art Slam was one weekend, and Simek believes it was not necessarily showing the best work around in any event. It must be galling for a gallery owner to see the Slam get all the attention it did, particularly when he/she can’t get people in to see better quality work. But then Allison is in the media/publicity business. Some sort of splash was inevitable; that’s what he does. It’s another issue if the Slam becomes a major annual player and Allison poaches some serious cash cows. Allison sees himself as expanding and extolling the smallish pond; Simek and Rees see the small pond shrinking these days and Allison only siphoning off some for himself.
In reply to Rees, Tim Rogers at Frontburner manages to condescend to her (“I like her anger. As a cultural critic, she uses it to good effect. To me, it reads as raw and honest”), marginalizes her complaint (“I’m told … there are some gallerists here who certainly don’t share Christina’s take”) and lectures her on how honey catches more rich people than vinegar (“Hitting your customers doesn’t usually drive up sales”).
Actually, it can be effective for artists and their reps, like gallery owners, to set themselves apart as ‘not running with the regular herd.’ A mass-market glossy needs the well-off herd more than a gallery does. Galleries tend to be specialty affairs. Many flatter their clientele by not obviously flattering them. They’re often here to educate, not simply pander.